My day with the talented embroidery ladies of the Ibaba co-operative

I didn’t know how much free time I would have in Rwanda before I got here, so I thought I better find myself a hobby. This was long due since one of the reasons I needed a sabbatical was the realisation that I hadn’t had a hobby since I started working at EY (and I thought that was a very sad position to be in!).

I decided my hobby should be traditional Estonian embroidery (since I am rock’n’roll like that…) and I was so happy to find an embroidery co-operative here in Rwanda, bursting with amazing talent!


Thanks to VAYANDO I had the pleasure of spending a day with the Ibaba ladies – an embroidery co-operative that has been going since the 70s. The ladies patiently helped me and my friends through some simple designs, whilst practicing their English and having a good giggle. Imagine a fun conversation involving ‘What is your name?’ *giggles* ‘Sandra’ *giggles* ‘Where are you from?’ *giggles* ‘Estonia’ *giggles* ‘What do you do?’ *giggles* ‘Volunteer’ ‘OOOOOH’ *giggles*. It was perfect!

So what does it take to ‘master’ embroidery in 2 hours?

  1. Choose your design


2. Choose your colours


3. Get cracking


4. And keep on going


5. And going


6. With your patient teacher sweating next to you as you consistently take too long of a stitch…


7. And voila… with our fingers hurting from the needle but our little geeky hearts full of joy, we ended up with great goodie bags that had a hand made design on them.


I want to say it was 100% made by us… but honestly, the ladies did about 70% as they are true perfectionists and very proud of their trade (plus, we’d probably still be there, embroidering away…)

Thank you Ibaba ladies, you are absolutely brilliant!






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